You might think a lot about the relationships in your life, like your relationships with food, people, and fitness. Still, when you hear the word “relationship,” you probably don’t think about money. Many people have an unhealthy connection to money. This unhealthy relationship could appear as ordinary things, like attaching your value to your salary or losing track of your credit card debt.
A healthy relationship with money is straightforward but challenging in our money-hungry society. Financial therapist Dasha Tcherniakovskaia says that having an ideal relationship with money means treating money like currency to save for the future and buy goods and services. She said if you have a healthy relationship, you see money as fundamentally neutral. In reality, everyone assigns their meaning to money. Phrases like “money is evil” and “money doesn’t grow on trees” add to the non-neutral meaning.
So how healthy is your bond with money? Here are some signs that you have an unhealthy relationship with money and how that can affect your mental health.
Not checking your balance.
Avoidance is a coping mechanism that mental health specialists say people use in several situations. Avoidance could look like putting off a hard conversation with a loved one or not visiting the doctor to avoid news on a diagnosis. Avoidance is also used as a coping behavior in financial therapy. If you find yourself avoiding dealing with your money behaviors, like not checking your bank account or ignoring your debt, you’re showing unhealthy behaviors regarding money.
Lots of people use avoidance to manage. You swipe your card, hoping it goes through, but you don’t check your account. As opposed to working on solutions based on knowing what’s happening with your finances, it’s more about, ‘what will I do if it doesn’t go through?’ This behavior can lead to concern surrounding your financial situation. How can you feel calm if you think your card won’t go through every time you swipe?
Limiting your money beliefs.
A healthy relationship with money is neutral. Your relationship won’t stay neutral if you have specific limiting beliefs regarding money. Limiting beliefs are thoughts like we don’t deserve money or money is evil. Whether subconsciously or consciously, these beliefs restrict you in numerous ways. For example, if you believe money is awful, you won’t try to get a promotion because you think you’ll become greedy once you get a higher salary.
These beliefs can differ from person to person. Still, Tcherniakovskaia says to figure out your limiting beliefs, you should consider the rules your family had around money when you were younger. Did your parents prioritize saving money? Were you punished if you spent money? Or did your family choose not to discuss money? If you’re uncertain about how you feel toward money, Tcherniakovskaia says you could try a word association activity.
Come up with associations to simple words like salary, money, to give, to take, income, and employment, and see what comes up. Are these associations negative or positive? From there, you can identify your subconscious or conscious money beliefs. It’s okay for your limiting beliefs to evolve. Your money situation is different from your childhood, and it might be different if your partner’s money beliefs factor in.
Comparing your monetary situation to other people’s.
You may have heard the mantra, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Still, you also know that avoiding comparing yourself to others is nearly impossible, especially since the start of social media. However, regarding your relationship with money, it’s unhealthy to constantly compare your financial situation to those around you. You may pine after things you believe you should have, like a specific car or a house.
Tying your value to your finances.
If you think your value is tied to how much money you make, you may have an unhealthy relationship with money. If you’re complaining about feeling like you’re not worthy due to your financial situation or your friend’s higher salary, you might want to question why you believe that. However, the opposite is also true. You should also evaluate your thought process if you think you’re more worthy because of your salary and money.
Inability to accept gifts.
When someone can’t accept small tokens like going out to dinner or other gifts, it’s a sign that they feel undeserving, and they should get to the bottom of why they think that way. Someone who shows this behavior could feel unworthy of being given something they didn’t earn. You should take notice if you’re having trouble saying yes to a cup of coffee from a co-worker. When someone thinks they have to earn everything, that’s another unhealthy thought about money. When someone thinks this way, they may also feel that they have to earn everything around them, including love, which is an unhealthy way to go through life.
This idea may feel like a given, but if you constantly overspend more than you earn, you’re showing a red money flag. If you fall into this group, you might feel like you’re always working and no amount of money is enough, no matter what you’re making. Spending money is a part of life, but the more profound question is why you need to buy something to have it or feel like you have to overspend.
For example, a reusable water bottle is something many people think they need, but what do you hope this 50 dollar water bottle will do? Will it make you work out more frequently? Perhaps not. Are you going to be hydrated? No, not if it isn’t already in your routine.
Money is part of our existence and is in our emotional brain. Once we’re activated by something threatening us or get triggered, we go into survival mode. It’s normal to react strongly to something to do with money, so be prepared for difficult realizations and conversations. Money is how we provide for ourselves and our families, which makes it emotional. If you think you have a hard time when it comes to your unhealthy relationship with money, that’s okay.